When Noor asked us to jump on board and shake things up for this month’s MENA cooking club challenge and make a cookie, I was ready! The catch was that the cookie must be a VERY traditional cookie from our own cultural background. Instantly, Iraqi kleicha came to mind. Kleicha has been featured several times on MCW, from date rods and spirals, fragrant coconut, and earthy walnuts. This time it’s sesame kleicha that’s the main attraction.
Kleicha is one of those festive foods you would gather your whole family, friends, and even neighbors to make together the eve of Eid. It brings people together and forges bonds. There is something so basic yet nurturing and thriving in bringing people together over food.
For the dough:
3 cups flour
1 cup milk, warmed
1 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground mahlab, optional
2 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
For the sesame:
2 cups sesame, toasted
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom, powder
3 Tbsp orange blossom water
1 egg white
To prepare the sesame, mix well the toasted (cooled) sesame, sugar, and powdered cardamom in a bowl.
Stir in the orange blossom and egg white until it resembles wet sand; set aside.
To make the dough, in a food processor stir the the flour, mahlab, and salt to equally distribute.
Whisk the yeast and sugar in half a cup of the warmed milk, set aside for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
Pour the yeast-milk mixture, and the remaining half cup of warm milk, and the melted butter over the flour mixture. Process until a ball forms.
Divide the dough into two balls, covering one ball in plastic wrap.
Roll on ball into a large rectangle. Spread half the sesame on the surface of the dough and press in lightly in the dough.
Cut the dough into rods, transfer to a baking sheet, and bake in a preheated 360F for 12 minutes until lightly browned underneath.
Repeat with the other dough ball and sesame.